The Flash: Season 2, Episode 1 - "Versus Zoom"

Gregory L. Reece

The dark and dangerous threat of Zoom works better than it should, precisely because it's set against the generally happy tone of this show.

The Flash

Airtime: Tuesdays, 8 pm
Cast: Teddy Sears, Tom Cavanagh, Grant Gustin, Jesse L. Martin, Carlos Valdes
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 18 - "Versus Zoom"
Network: CW
Air date: 2016-04-20

For all of its sunny charm, quick wit, and eager embrace of Silver Age-style comic book tropes and plotlines, The Flash is often at its very best when a bit of darkness is thrown into the mix. "Versus Zoom" is a fine example of this. It was previously revealed that former Team Flash member Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears) is actually the dark and sinister Zoom, the evil speedster from Earth-2 who has plagued Flash and friends all season long. This episode reveals even more about the villain, including his real identity as a notorious serial killer transformed by Harrison Wells' (Tom Cavanagh) science-gone-awry into a super-villain.

The episode presents a parallel between the lives of Zoom and Barry (Grant Gustin). Barry's father was falsely accused of his mother's murder and taken to jail. Barry, fortunately, was taken into a loving home and raised by Joe (Jesse. L. Martin). Zoom, whose real name is revealed to be Hunter Zolomon, had a similar but different path. In his case, his father really did murder his mother and the young Hunter was sent to live in an uncaring orphanage. Barry, of course, grew up to be a police scientist and a superhero. Hunter grew up to be a serial killer and super-villain.

Flash and Zoom are brought back into conflict when Barry convinces Cisco (Carlos Valdes) to experiment with his vibe powers in order to open a portal to Earth-2, where Zoom continues his reign of terror. His speed enhanced by new technology, the Flash believes that he is finally ready to face the villain again. Sure enough, when Zoom comes through the portal, the Flash proves that he is faster than his black clad alter-ego.

The conflict between the two speedsters is fun to watch. For a television budget, The Flash does a great job with special effects. It never fails to be exciting to see the Scarlet Speedster zoom around Central City, racing up and down streets like a bolt of lightning. For a guy who grew up watching The Six Million Dollar Man illustrate the hero's speed by having him run in slow motion, seeing the Flash run is a thrill. The Flash's speed effects aren’t as cool as Quicksilver's (Evan Peters) in X-Men: Days of Future Past, but they're better than the other Quicksilver's (Aaron-Taylor Johnson) from Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Of course, it’s something of a let-down when Zoom finally stands unmasked. There was no way that Teddy Sears could ever look as imposing as the leather-faced demon that’s been haunting the series all season. Sears does make it work, however, and makes Hunter Zolomon suitably menacing. When he manages to outsmart the good guys and free himself from their trap, he ups the ante pretty quickly, and the end result is devastating for the Flash.

"Versus Zoom" is another good episode for this impressive series. The dark and dangerous threat of Zoom works better than it should, precisely because it is set against the generally happy tone of this show. Shadows need the light, I suppose.

I think that this is why some of the best comic books have been those with darker takes on usually sunny characters. Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns immediately comes to mind, as does Alan Moore's and Brian Bolland's The Killing Joke. Both work so well because they do dark and unexpected things with comic book characters that had traditionally been immune from such turns. Adam West's grinning version of Batman was still fresh on everyone's mind when those stories brought a level of maturity to the character that had seldom been seen before.

The problem with the dark and gritty version of comic book superheroes, perhaps best illustrated by the work of Miller and Moore, is that the dark take then became the most prominent version of the characters. For a decade or more, all comics were suddenly dark and serious. What worked as a counter-point to the four-color exuberance of traditional superhero storytelling, turned out to be a disaster on its own. (See the lumbering and self-serious Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as a prime example.)

The Flash, however, is so far getting it just right. Zoom races in shadows, but he’s racing against a happy hero in fiery yellow and red.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.